Women of the Beat

October 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

Fresh off the virtual press, it’s my article on women of the Beat Generation. Check it out here at Her Circle Ezine.

It was fascinating to research women who had the courage to become writers, artists and poets in the 1950s, the height of female domesticity. I’m still so immersed in the time and women writers’ work– I’m currently reading Diane di Prima’s memoir — Recollections of My Life as a Woman. I also just had a conversation with poet ruth weiss today on the telephone. It was wonderful, fascinating and surreal. I’ll be publishing a piece about ruth as the second article in my series on Beat women shortly.

For now, I’m reveling in the 1950s… and what it took for women to shun the idea of female ‘perfection’ widely broadcast for the first time on television…


Witches, Without Broomsticks

September 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

What comes to mind when we think of witches?

Stores in the U.S. are already filled with Halloween costumes for little girls– lots of pointy black shoes and hats, striped tights and broomsticks.

But I have been thinking about the word “witch” and all it has meant in history.  My new article for Writing from the Margins at Her Circle Ezine, “What Became of the Five ‘Witches’ of Croatia,” was published today, and you can read it here.

Five brave female journalists and writers were labeled “witches” in the Croatian mainstream media in the 1990s because they spoke out against the nationalist state; they had the courage to write as individuals and not just Croatian citizens; and they had the audacity to read and publish widely in foreign media.

I was curious about what became of the ‘Five Witches’ and was not surprised to see that they continue to refuse to be silenced… I hope you gain inspiration from these women, as I did.

I’ll also post the article under my “articles” section of this site shortly.

Mexico Lindo

August 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

So often, my heart breaks for Mexico. I keep a keen eye out for news from there… one of my homes, a home of my heart, if not my physical home at the moment.

Today I read three stories concerning Mexico. One, from the New York Times, detailing a soccer game that was suspended due to gunfire. My heart sank as I read this. I thought of the final scene in the film, Traffic, where kids are playing baseball at night with lights. The message from that very well done Soderberg scene was that investing in infrastructure and in communities will help to stem the flow of drug violence and the power and lure of drug cartels.

The drug cartels are killing with impunity, more so than any time in history. That we know. But now, it seems that nothing is sacred. Not parks, not soccer games, not journalists, not foreigners, not children.

It is a dream, especially with the faltering economy here in the U.S., to think that this country could place a greater interest in Mexico at this time. Still, the second news story I read seemed to lend a bit more hope for a better relationship. Today, here in San Diego, people on both sides of the border are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Friendship Park on the U.S.-Mexico border, where then First Lady Pat Nixon reached her hand through the fence to greet residents of the other side.

Today there was “a cross-border salsa lesson, a bi-national music jam session, and testimonies from families who have used the park as a meeting place.” After 9/11 a triple layer border fence destroyed Friendship Park, but there are plans in the works to bring back this cross-border meeting space, without compromising security.

Serendipitously, I was researching writers to feature in Writing from the Margins for Her Circle Ezine, and I came across this speech by Meredith Tax about Mexican writer and feminist activist Lydia Cacho. Ms. Cacho was awarded the Ginetta Sagan prize by Amnesty International USA. Her struggle against censorship led to a change in Mexico’s federal law, decriminalizing defamation. Ms. Tax paints a very vivid picture of the ways the U.S. and Mexico are economically and politically entwined. Then, she closes her speech with a quote from Ms. Cacho, which captures my thoughts about Mexico today perfectly:

“It is impossible not to ask why, with these assembly plants that produce millions of dollars for owners of companies with foreign names, there is no investment in public works, there are no parks or gardens, or schools, only barren places, ready for sowing of garbage and death, surrounding the transnational buildings. Who cares about Juárez City? The abandonment of the streets reflects the abandonment of its people, the myopia of its governments, the death of its women and children, the solitude of the forgotten border.”

The solitude of the forgotten border. Her quote is found poetry. As much as I am passionate about free speech, removing barriers to the world’s receiving of the written voices of women and girls, I am also passionate that the U.S.-Mexico border and its pressing issues not be forgotten. All of these issues come together in Ms. Cacho’s story, and I am inspired. I want to know more, I want to do more.

Afghan Women’s Writing Project “Freedom to Tell Your Story” Campaign

August 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Photo: Afghan Women's Writing Project

At Her Circle Ezine, our mission is to support socially-engaged creative work, be it in literature or the arts. While researching news on art and books for Her Circle, I learned of a new campaign by the Afghan Women’s Writing Project called “Freedom to Tell Your Story.” I wrote briefly about the campaign here.

AWWP helps women’s voices be heard in a country that is one of the most dangerous in the world for women. Most of the participants in the project must write in secret, and risk most severe punishment if they are discovered. As I discussed in my recent post on Musine Kokalari, there are so many barriers to voices of women and girls being heard. The kinds of barriers in Afghanistan are among the most blatant and widespread, and the most dangerous. AWWP has taken up a noble and important mandate, one that I hope to help garner support.

But what are the barriers, if any, that exist right here in North America? A friend in my book group passed along this article to us today where author Claire Messud (The Emperor’s Children) writes about the dearth of female authors recognized for the top literary prizes or listed among the best writers in history or in contemporary landscapes. The comments following Ms. Messud’s post were, I think, even more interesting than her article. The comments add more data to support her claims, but also show skepticism of the veracity of her claims among male writers. What is your take?

Reading Musine– Lost Voices of Women and Girls

August 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

I recently assumed the post of Editor of Writing from the Margins, a feature section of Her Circle Ezine. Writing from the Margins showcases women writers outside of the West, typically writing in a language other than English.

In this section, we hope to give a broader voice to women who might only be read in their own countries (and only minimally there at that). We hope to call attention to the high and various barriers that women writers face in so many places when endeavoring to get their work published and disseminated.

My first piece for this section, published today, was on the life of Albanian writer Musine Kokalari. Kokalari spent the better part of her life in prison and in an internment camp for her public views and writings. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she was refused proper treatment. Her hands were bound even after she was dead. Why did the Albanian state believe she was so dangerous she had to be bound even upon her death in my piece? You can read my full piece here.

The story is a powerful example of the most extreme type of barrier women face to publishing their ideas– oppressive regimes that persecute dissenting voices, especially female voices, and that hold on to rigid patriarchies where women should not be heard.

What are some of the other less tangible barriers we face? Musine Kokalari’s life reminds us to seize our rightful freedom of expression and to honor those who have fought for such rights by writing what is true and authentic to our own experiences. 

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